Main Street by Sinclair Lewis (Lisa Hill, ANZ LitLovers)

Sinclair Lewis was the first American to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1930. The citation reads for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humour, new types of characters. His most well-known novels are Main Street (1920) and Babbit (1922).

Main Street
ruffled more than a few feathers in small town America when it was first published in 1920, and I expect it has the same effect on some readers today, nearly a century later. Sinclair Lewis wrote this savage satire as an indictment of small town life in the early 20th century – a time when prairie life was patriotically idealised as wholesome and honorable. But Lewis saw small towns as claustrophobic, narrow-minded, anti-intellectual, mean-spirited and conformist. He labelled the power of small town life to inculcate its citizenry with enervating shallow values as ‘The Village Virus’, and the focus of the story is whether the outsider Carol will succumb to Main Street, or not. The choice of Carol as the central character means that Main Street also explores the same territory of female aspirations and limited career choices as Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie (1900), and this adds interest to
Lewis’s primary critique.

To read the rest of my review please visit

I read and blogged my review of Main Street in July 2011.
Lisa Hill, Melbourne, Australia

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